The past year has been a massive challenge for all of us. But at the same time, it’s been so inspiring to see so many people pulling together and coming up with brilliant ideas to spread some positivity and do something good during these most unprecedented of times. Which is why I wanted to give a platform to an inspiring group of mums who have done just that. Who not only set up a charity in the middle of the pandemic, but are now making waves in the second-hand children’s clothes market, encouraging us all to reuse and recycle while accelerating the journey to net zero. Introducing Zero Carbon Kids.
I caught up with the charity’s co-founders Bonnie and Izzy, to share their inspiring story:
For people who haven’t heard of Zero Carbon Kids, can you tell us what it is in a nutshell?
Bonnie: In very simple terms, we’re a charity that collects and sells second hand baby and kids’ clothes, with the money raised going towards carbon sink projects such as tree planting, ocean meadows and rewilding.
Initially our focus was collecting donations from local parents in North London and selling them locally, but since lockdown we’re now doing a lot more online through Instagram and our soon to open Shopify site (keep an eye on our Insta feed for updates).
And how did you come up with the idea for Zero Carbon Kids?
Izzy: I think we planted the seed on 30th December 2019 when Bonnie and I met for a manifestation session, cutting up lots of magazines and sticking words and pictures onto A3 pieces of paper. It sounds a bit hippy dippy but it’s a very gentle way to nudge your subconscious into visualising what you really want in your future and in your year ahead. I think we manifested something.
Then in January, I cycled past an old shop which was ‘for rent’. I pulled over and texted Bonnie: “Come on – let’s open a packaging free shop that sells oats, and seeds!” Our friend Nicole said: “I think there are plenty of shops selling nuts and seeds…how about a clothes swapping shop instead?“
And what happened next?
Izzy: Well we had some meetings…all via zoom because of COVID, and we came up with a list of name ideas. And I was so excited when I found that Zero Carbon Kids hadn’t been taken!
Bonnie: There was then a real push to get the website finished so we could launch ourselves as “a thing”. Originally I really wanted a shop but because of COVID we decided to start off with an outdoor stall in our local park. We learnt a lot from doing it this way, as we realised that for lots of people, when purchasing second hand, being able to see and feel the garments really helped them feel confident in their purchases.
What was the response like to your stalls?
Izzy: The first time we did our stall we were surprised by how joyous it was. Actually watching people find garments and say – “oh I love this!” – it was full of joy.
Bonnie: And it’s been amazing talking to people about why we’re doing this. Both of us feel quite strongly that Zero Carbon Kids isn’t just about using the profits for carbon capture; it’s about encouraging people away from buying new. One of our customers told me a fact: there’s enough clothing in existence to clothe the next three generations, which really made me think. I have these visions of landfill just stacked full of rotting clothes, which really drives me to power on with this.
So when we went back into full lockdown, it must have been a real blow?
Izzy: It was! After a really positive summer of sales last year, the second lockdown in November stopped everything in its tracks as we couldn’t do outdoor stalls anymore. So, we took that as a sign that it was time to go online, which we realised was essential to drive awareness and raise even more money for tree planting.
Bonnie: We started posting pictures on Instagram of the donated clothes we had for sale, which I’m pleased to say has kept the charity running during lockdown.
On the website, we also launched a request service where people can contact us with a list of things they needed and we provide a personalised shopping experience where we send photos of things we think they might like. It’s quite labour intensive but has proved really popular and is actually a really fun thing for us too!
I saw you’ve started doing hand-picked baby boxes for new parents…can you tell us more about them?
Izzy: The baby boxes are a gift idea that you might buy for a friend or family member expecting a newborn or as a present for a 1st birthday, and we include a tree planting certificate with each box so people can see the impact they’re having from each purchase.
We also get a lot of expectant mothers wanting to buy a baby box for themselves because it’s got everything you need for a newborn and it’s more eco that shopping on the high street. We have three different baby boxes available at the moment: mini (~5 items), medium (10-15 items) and deluxe (25-30 items). So for example, an expectant mother might buy a deluxe box containing everything she’ll need…clothes, a tiny towel, breast pads, cellular blankets, hats, scratch mittens etc.
We did an Instagram competition just before Christmas for a baby box and the response was amazing. It was such fun making the winner a beautiful box of clothes for her 12 week old son.
Do you feel an obligation to try and sell everything that you are given?
Izzy: I think that’s an important issue. I want Zero Carbon Kids to have a good reputation for selling high quality stuff. We don’t want to sell things that are stained, have holes in them or are worn out and past it. And this was a really big issue for us – what to do with things we cannot sell.
Bonnie: We collaborate with a brilliant fabric recycling place, and that’s where all stained donations go that can’t be sold. They separate everything into what can be recycled or not and then resell some things to sub Saharan Africa. It was honestly such a relief to find this organisation as we both had towers and towers of unwanted clothes gathering in our homes!
And with the profits you generate, do you plant the trees yourself, or how do you do it?
Bonnie: We’re really pleased to be partnering with Stump Up For Trees (SUFT); a small, community-led charity that’s working to plant a million trees in the Brecon Beacons area.
How can people support Zero Carbon Kids?
Bonnie: We are happy to receive donations of clothes and money. Following us on social media, sharing our posts, and just spreading the word is all really helpful. We welcome volunteers and especially anyone suffering with climate anxiety who wants help getting out of that rut. It can be so paralysing and we find that taking positive action really helps.
Are you open to other people joining your cause and setting up Zero Carbon Kids stalls and projects of their own in other areas of the country?
Izzy: YES! I had always imagined that others would join and that we would have regional Zero Carbon Kids stalls springing up in other locations. I imagined that once we had the business models established, we could franchise the method to other people. If anyone is interested in getting involved, we’d love to hear from you on firstname.lastname@example.org!
And finally, what does success look like for you?
Bonnie: Success is having a solid group of regular customers – we’ve had some great reviews, saying “this is exactly what I’m looking for” and “I’ll be coming back to buy more.” But that’s just the start…
Izzy: We want to spread the news to people who hadn’t considered buying second-hand and hadn’t considered the impact that the garment industry on the environment. It’s early days but in terms of where we are headed, we both feel really positive.